The sadly ironic part of Edward Snowden’s blockbuster leaks about the NSA is that now he’s got no personal privacy left whatsoever. And soon, neither will anyone else he knows.
Because now the news media wants to know all about him. And with nothing substantive to report, they’ll pick at the edges of his personal network – not unlike how the NSA uses phone records to establish networks of suspected terrorists – to report anything they can dredge up.
The first victim in the crosshairs: Snowden’s alleged girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. According to reports by the Washington Post and others, Ms. Mills was living with Snowden until he fled to Hong Kong two weeks ago. Ms. Mills, we quickly learned, is a professional acrobat and pole dancer (not to be confused with a stripper).
Now she’s no longer Lindsay Mills, private citizen; she’s Edward Snowden’s Pole Dancing Ex-Girlfriend. And while Snowden managed to remain virtually invisible online – probably because he knew exactly what could happen to that information, given what he did for a living – the lovely Ms. Mills did not. Quite the opposite, in fact.
She is now an object lesson in how your digital footprint can come back to haunt you, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
As an experiment, I decided to see how much I could find out about Lindsay Mills in the space of roughly an hour. I’m not going to link to any of it – if you want to see it, you’ll have to look for it yourself. She made the common mistake of using the same pseudonym across different Internet services, making her easy to find. She’s also a prolific poster of photos.
Her Twitter account is still public, though the last tweet, posted two days ago, kind of says it all.
She deleted her personal blog on Monday after reporters found it. But it’s still available via the Wayback Machine at archive.org. And this being the Internet, people can’t stop themselves from reposting her blog entries and pictures and commenting on her florid prose and her lurid poses.
Her YouTube channel is still live. There you can assess her quite formidable pole dancing talents. (Not to worry, she keeps all of her clothes on.)
She doesn’t have her own Tumblr account, but a handful of others have pinned and tagged her photos there. She’s got a Pinterest account with nearly 1400 pins, most of them pictures of dancers and models.
I cannot find a Facebook account. There are more than 100 people on Facebook named Lindsay Mills, though none in Hawaii, and none of the ones I looked at appear to be her. I also couldn’t find her on LinkedIn, even when I searched for Pole Dancing.
Google Street View has a picture of the house she shared with Snowden, and directions on how to get there.
Her Instagram account is private, but she’s got Flickr and Twicsy accounts loaded with images of herself in various states of undress – though again, no nudes. (One of the images is Lindsay wearing nothing but a black hat pulled low over her face and black underwear, with her fingers in the shape of a gun strategically placed in front of her otherwise bare chest. The title: “Superspy.”)
A number of Web sites have created slide shows of sexy photos culled from her various accounts. Gee, what a surprise.
As a performer, Mills might welcome all of this public attention. She might even ride this 15 nanoseconds of fame into a career. But I suspect not. And if she wanted to suddenly disappear from view, she might be able to do that in the real world – but she won’t be able to do that on the Internet.
Even if she removed every single thing she’s ever posted, her pics have now spread across the Web. She will quite likely never get them back. And unless she becomes famous for other reasons, she will always be known as the pole dancing ex-girlfriend of the whistleblower spy.
Something to think about before you decide to post those racy Instagrams and/or date someone who works for the NSA.
Got a question about social media or privacy? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.